view of the Zen Center as you enter the driveway
We had a joint Sangha Retreat with the members of Dae Myung Sa and the Five Mountain Order over the weekend. Dae Myung Sa is the name that Zen Master Seung Sahn gave the Zen Center of Las Vegas in 1994, just as he named our Huntington Beach Center, Hae An Sa at the same time. Before I enter into a discussion about our retreat I'd like to spend a bit of time talking about the history and connections of the two Sanghas.
The founder, Abbot and Guiding Teacher of Dae Myung Sa is Rev. Thom Kwanjok Pastor, JDPSN and Popsanim Thom is a man whom I consider my best friend. Thom and I are Dharma Brothers and both began practicing in the Kwan Um School of Zen in the late 1980's.
Both Thom and I realized in about 1992 that we both wanted to open Zen Centers in our respective communities, so following the opening of the beautiful Meditation Room at the Aikido-Ai Dojo, Thom and I vowed to support each other in our endeavors.
Thom and I in Whittier, CA 1992
Thom and I diligently set out trying to find Buddhas, artwork, cushions, mats, and the rest of the things that you need to open a Zen Center. In 1992, for those that don't realize it, there was no such thing as buying anything on the internet. We worked together making artwork, and sewing cushions and mats and even making chugpis. Eventually, in August of 1993 the Huntington Beach Zen Center was opened by Zen Master Seung Sahn as a residential Center. When Zen Master Seung Sahn installed me as the Abbot in 1993 he told everyone that the Huntington Beach Zen Center was better than any other ten year old Zen Center.
ZM Seung Sahn Dharma Talk at Opening of HB Zen Center
The original HB Zen Center
I saw the picture, which is on the right side of the Altar in the upstairs loft at the Zen Center of Las Vegas this weekend, it brought back many old memories, but I digress. Early in 1994 the Mojave Desert Zen Center opened in the front office of a Las Vegas Acupuncturist by the name of Dr. Lee. Dr. Lee was Zen Master Seung Sahn's Acupuncturist and treated him for his Diabetes when he was in Southern California. It is interesting how all of this is interconnected. Thom would show up early on Sunday Mornings and move all the furniture out of the front office and then unpack his motor home where he would carry all the supplies and cushions, etc for the 'floating zendo.'
Paul and Thom at Dharma Zen Center early 1990's
Over the years the names of the Centers changed and the locations also moved many times. In So Cal the HB Zen Center moved from Huntington Beach to Stanton and then to Long Beach and eventually has moved back to Huntington Beach. The Mojave Desert Zen Center became the Great Bright Zen Center and is now known as the Zen Center of Las Vegas, and moved from Dr. Lee's office to a Karate Dojo, to a Private Residence, to an Industrial Center across from the Strip to it new home in two houses on Harmon near Tropicana.
As ZCLV moves into the realm of a Residential Zen Center, Ocean Eyes Zen Center is now a floating zendo sharing a space the the local Church of Religious Science in Huntington Beach. The movement outward, sideways, upward and any way has always been grounded with a deep friendship between Thom and I.
The last incarnation of OEZC prior to my founding Five Mountain.
The Sangha in Las Vegas has been working on its new home for several months and Thom had told me that their first retreat would be at the end of August. Based upon the fact the he and I had been at each other's openings, more times than either of us would care to admit, we thought it might be fun to do a joint retreat with our groups. It turns out that this was right and we all enjoyed practicing together in such a beautiful and functional new space.
For more pictures of the retreat.